Advice on Child Custody Disputes

Colorado child custody battle tips

We frequently deal with high-conflict parenting disputes in our family law team. Many clients call these “custody battles.” Over the next few weeks we’re going to have several posts on various issues such as Parental Responsibilities Evaluators, a checklist for what a divorce attorney would ask about at trial, and the like.

The below is intended to give basic information about what you can, and cannot, do with your children in a Colorado divorce. These tips or recommendations are aimed at giving you the best possible chance for “success.”

Communication with the Other Parent

Try to discuss your child’s welfare with the other parent. Limit your discussion to the child’s welfare. Don’t discuss the new boyfriend or girlfriend or your anger with the other parent; it’s counterproductive. If you cannot discuss these matters with the other parent, write him or her a letter or email. Save a copy.

Dating

This is addressed from a practical, not moral, stance. If you are still married, you will be until the judge dissolves your marriage. Terminate or put on hold any extramarital relationship. If the new boyfriend or girlfriend cares about you enough, he or she will wait for you. If not, so be it. You need to concentrate on maintaining and developing your relationship with your children. You do not have the time or money right now for affairs. That time will come later, after this case is closed. Do not involve the paramour in your child’s life. Regardless of how much the new love object purportedly cares for your child, limit your contact with the boy/girlfriend to times when the child is with the other parent. Your paramour ’s lifestyle, behavior, marital status, and indeed relationship with his/her own children will come under scrutiny in your parenting dispute.

Medical Care

Elective, non-emergency medical care should be undertaken after consultation with the other parent. If the parent refuses to discuss this with you, let that parent know the name of the service provider, the procedures undertaken, and the diagnosis. Don’t keep the child’s medical care a secret from the other parent.

School

If you’re the primary parent, let the other parent know when parent-teacher conferences are scheduled. Give the other parent a copy of the child’s report card. Share the child’s schoolwork with the other parent. Discuss homework and school responsibilities the child may have with the other parent.If you’ve historically not been as involved in parenting, you have the right to contact the school and ask that you be contacted about parent-teacher conferences and the child’s school records. Do so. Don’t place all of the responsibility upon your spouse to let you know. Take an active part in the child’s education.

If you are the parent ending the visit, have the children ready for the visit. Have a supply of suitable clothing ready to accompany the child. You don’t want the judge to learn that you let your child go off on a weekend visit with the clothes he was wearing and another change in a plastic bag, do you?

As a single parent, you need a break from the child. And the child needs a break from you. In an intact family, parents relieve each other from the constant demands of the child. In a divorce situation, the appropriate relief is visitation with the other parent.

Visitation

If you are the visiting parent, pick up the child on time. Return the child on time. If you’re going to be unexpectedly late, call or at least send a text. Don’t demand that the child keep toys and clothing at your house just because you purchased them. After all, those items are the child’s, not yours.A medical condition short of hospitalization is no excuse for denying visitation. The visiting parent can, and should, assume some of the responsibility of caring for a sick child.

Do not use the child as an intermediary to carry messages between you and your spouse. You’re an adult. You know how to communicate. Visitation is not a time to revisit disputes with your spouse. It’s your time with your child. Use it for that. This is not the time to introduce the child to your new love match.

Do not pump your child for information about life in the other parent’s home. If it’s worth telling, the child will tell you. Did you tell your parents everything that went on when you were 8 or 12 years old? Remember how you replied, “Oh, nothing” to your mother, when she asked you what you did in school?

Do not ask your child to keep secrets about what takes place in your home. You do not have the right to refuse visitation because the other parent hasn’t paid child support. The two issues are not related. You have a remedy for non-payment of child support. You can lose physical care of your child if you deny court-ordered visitation.

Don’t get too upset about your child’s behavior at the beginning or end of each visit. The child’s cries at the end of a visit are perceived by the physical custodian as tears of joy at being reunited with the parent, and the same outburst is viewed by the visiting parent as tears of sadness at the separation. Plan some kind of activity to allow the child to “wind down.” It’s not the end of the world if the child misses a Little League ball game or Sunday school because it took place during the other spouse’s visit.

Child Support 

If you are ordered to pay child support during the pendency of this action, pay it. If you simply can’t make the full payment, at least make a partial payment. The judge will not look kindly upon your claim for increased visitation or physical care when you have failed to contribute to your child’s support. Child support is money paid directly to the spouse for the child’s support. Child support is not a new pair of skis or Nike shoes that you bought the child during the weekend visit. It is the money that puts bread on the table and pays the rent.

Counseling

Divorce is tough. It’s kind of like death, only no one sends you a condolence card. It hurts. However, it’s not fatal. Go to the mental health professional. It’s often easier to discuss your feelings with someone you’ll never see again, someone who’ll not say, “I told you so.” Therapy will not be held against you in court. In fact, in addition to helping you through the anger and sadness of divorce, the fact that you sought therapy can be looked upon as a positive factor by the court.

Parenting Resources

You can never learn enough about parenting. It’s an ongoing process. Enroll in a parenting class. Read about child care, child development, parenting techniques, or various schedules. Show the judge that you know something about parenting and that you have a willingness to learn.

Telling the Children About the Divorce

Your child knows more about what’s going on in his or her life than you may realize. You do not need to go into details about why the marriage ended with the child. There are a number of children’s books, geared to varying age and reading levels, which discuss divorce and single-parenting issues with the child.

Adjustments

Remember when you first became pregnant? You were filled with worry and doubt about what your life was going to be like. Your friends and relatives all gave you advice about what childbirth and the new baby was going to feel like, but when you actually went through these steps, your feelings were unique. Divorce is much the same. While everybody’s case has common threads, the actual experience for each is unique.You are making the same adjustments in your life day by day as a divorcing parent that you did as a new parent. Be the best parent for your child in all aspects of your life. Your child will undoubtedly divorce, end a relationship, or quit a job sometime in his or her life. The example you give your child as a divorcing parent is as important as the rest of the “good examples” you try to give your child.

 

For more information regarding child custody disputes in the Vail and Roaring Fork Valleys contact Aspen attorneys, Ryan Kalamaya and Georgina Melbye, or Vail attorney, Amy Goscha at 970-315-2365. Kalamaya | Goscha is a Colorado law firm specializing in divorcechild support, child custody, and parental relocations with offices located in Edwards, Glenwood Springs and Aspen. While the above is based on our experience in Colorado child custody battles, it is not legal advice. If you want legal advice, you need to hire an attorney.

%d bloggers like this: